Ukraine 3-1 United States: East Europeans edge out Americans
Even coach Keith Tozer's highly vocal encouragement from the sidelines could not prevent the USA falling 3-1 in a high-quality encounter with Ukraine in the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. Both sides were guilty of a string of glaring misses, but it is the Americans who will be rueing them most tonight.
Ukraine boss Gennadiy Lisenchuk was satisfied afterwards: "I'm delighted. We've won a vital game today against outstanding opponents. Now it all goes down to the wire against Argentina."
The Ukraine starting five showed two changes, Vasyl Sukhomlinov replacing Olexiy Popov in goal while Vitaiy Brunko came in for captain Olexandr Popov. The USA also brought in two new faces, keeper Scott Hileman and Pat Morris in place of John Ball.
The Ukrainians pressed forward from the off but Pylypiv miskicked with the goal at his mercy after four minutes. Hileman parried Sytin's sixth minute effort before Dusosky rushed the Americans' first decent opening a minute later. Shaytanov should have put the East Europeans ahead with nine minutes played before Pylypiv blazed wide of the upright 60 seconds later as the Americans reeled. Melnikov failed to exploit a promising situation before Hileman again denied Pylypiv on the quarter-hour.
The USA were left counting their lucky stars when Howes deflected the ball wide and Koridze spooned a close-range effort over the bar with only the keeper to beat. Howes and Torres provided relief from the onslaught but neither could convert.
Suddenly Butcher had the opening goal on his foot but failed to outfox the keeper, only for Ukraine to hit back on the break and take a deserved 19th minute lead through Sytin. The Americans conjured up an instant response with a fine passing move 30 seconds later leading to Torres' equaliser. There was still time for Koridze to warm Hileman's gloves before the break.
The first chance of the second half fell to Beasley, as the Americans emerged from the dressing room in determined mood. But Ukraine had finally laced up their shooting boots and Sytin struck for the second time to restore his side's lead after 24 minutes. Brunko squandered a fine opportunity to increase the margin before Hileman made a breathtaking save from Melnikov after 25 minutes.
Ukraine had the upper hand now but the final ball was going astray. Sytin missed twice within a minute just short of the half-hour before Morris struck the bar at the other end of the court. Brunko could have settled the issue but was denied by Hileman on 31 minutes. Fortune abandoned the US in a furious finale as the unlucky Morris hit a post and Dusosky missed another great chance with three minutes remaining.
In a final desperate throw of the dice, Tozer withdrew his keeper 80 seconds from the end and sent on Ball as a fifth outfield player, but the team surrendered possession and Nesteruk walked in the third.
"Apart from the first five minutes when we weren't mentally on the court, my team played extremely well today. We were out of luck when we hit the post at the end, but overall we showed we're a match for the best in the world," US coach Keith Tozer declared.